The Flight from Intelligence, or That Which Must Not Be Named
By Bryan Caplan
This cracked me up:
SAT scores have been interpreted in a number of different ways, both by the test’s designers themselves (Educational Testing Service) and by college administrators, high school counselors, the popular press, and researchers in fields such as education and psychology. Indeed, even the name of the test has been repeatedly changed and reinterpreted over the years. It was introduced in 1901 as the Scholastic Achievement Test, purporting to measure the level of achievement attained by prospective college students. After considerable development (and growing popularity), it was renamed the Scholastic Aptitude Test in 1941 to emphasize the fact that it measures the ability to succeed in college. After the rise of “coaching courses,” which demonstrated that students could successfully raise their test scores, the test was rename the Scholastic Assessment Test in 1991. Finally, in 1994, the test was reduced to its initials: “Please note that SAT is not an initialism. It does not stand for anything”(College Board, 1994, as cited in Harper, 2002). (emphasis mine) As of 2005, the current version of the SAT was labeled the SAT Reasoning Test, which, according to the Educational Testing Service, assesses “reasoning ability” and not intelligence.
Despite the test maker’s claim that the SAT is not an intelligence test, recent research suggests that the SAT measures something very close to general mental ability.
It’s amazing to see how much mental effort the world has spent trying to avoid the concept of intelligence. I’m tempted to call it an ostrich mentality – “If we don’t look at intelligence, it won’t exist.” But that’s too charitable. The semantic contortions of the ETS reflect a paranoid word mysticism straight out of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos: “Don’t say its name. You might open the gate from its world to ours.”
Update: My wife, whose literary tastes are a little less Gothic than mine, points out that an even better analogy is to Harry Potter‘s Voldemort – “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.”